My Coaching Philosophy

ART – Aesthetically pleasing movement = economy of motion

SCIENCE – The balance of training load/ stress

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Yearly training plan phases:

Although I break the training year up into phases, unlike traditional periodisation I see these phases more of a technical and race specific phase (i.e. going longer for ironman).  In both phases there is still hard and easy training.

Foundation Training

If you’re looking to improve technically in any aspect of your triathlon training, this is the time of year to address it (not 6 weeks out before your A1 race). This is around 6 months prior to your A1 race – typically in the Northern Hemisphere November/December.

Winter Training

The key to winter training is building your fitness and if you’ve worked at hard at something technically (swim, bike or run) winter is to build the robustness of this improved skill under greater pressure... Mostly its about "just getting it done"

Race Preparation

Depending on the distance you are looking to race over, the course terrain (hilly bike etc) and your individual strengths & weaknesses, I have put 4 different race preparation training plans which will determine how you prepare for the final 12 weeks prior to your ‘A’ Race.

  • Sprint Distance Triathlon Plan
  • Olympic Distance Triathlon Plan
  • 70.3 Distance Triathlon Plan
  • Ironman Distance Triathlon Plan
Broken, ill or injured athletes do not make the start line… only smart athletes get to see their potential.

Training Strategy

You may, during profiling, identify that you need to increase your bike power if you are to race better next season. You start working on your bike power in November, yes 6+ months pre season (northern hemisphere). However, instead of smashing yourself with long rides leaving you burnt out by February.  Firstly you address any technical weaknesses during the foundation phase (no pressure, just mastering the art of cycling). During the winter phase you will be going through sessions that will address both force & power components of cycling. You then enter the preparation phase an all round stronger more economical cyclist.

Within endurance & ultra- endurance we cannot afford to waste a single stroke – revolution – step

Once you feel your technical weaknesses have been mastered, we move onto building all components of fitness and have fun doing so.  The key to winter training is to develop this fitness whilst not leaving you tired, fatigued or burnt out before preparation phase. Therefore, you need to build in periods of “freshening up” both physically and mentally.

For me a full day off each week for age groupers and elites alike is essential, more mentally than physically. I know many coaches don’t do this, however I have a very low injury/ burn-out rate with the athletes I work with.  

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What about individualisation?

We are all individuals and each have different strength & weakness’s. However, remember the foundation phase is about mastering the personal technical aspects of your performance and then as you go into preparation phase you will prepare specifically for the course or distance.

For me, consistency is key throughout winter, working on all aspects of your training, while maintaining freshness. Once you hit the preparation phase, i.e. you are getting ready to prepare for your big race or group of races, you then need to think on an individual basis;
• Distance you are doing (Ironman/ sprint)
• Type of course (Hilly, flat, technical)
• Weather conditions (cold, hot, humid, altitude)
• Individual weakness (bike power, FBP, no mans land head space)
• Travel

Even at the very sharpest end of triathlon, the ITU WTS circuit, during the season it can be very difficult to prepare for an individual race. Especially when athletes are chasing Olympic qualification points, as they are racing so often that there just isn’t the time for specialization or prepping for an individual course. So each athlete needs to be strong in all areas and to be handle anything thrown at them. That said, a course/ stage like the Rio Olympics, would be given the highest priority for all athletes concerned and what do they have to factor in?
• Travel to Rio
• The threat of mugging/ robbery
• Split Olympic village and race venue
• Weather (it could be 20 & raining or 35 & sunny with 95% humidity)
• Very difficult riding conditions for training around the race venue
• The sea swim: could be choppy swell, flat or manic waves & beach start.
• The bike: a 25% incline 8 x and technical sections down the hill
• The run: If it’s hot and the sun is out, there is no hiding place.

What do you have to contend with in your next race?


Training Programmes

You don’t need to be complex about your weekly/ yearly training, working on a simple strategy of three weeks on and one week recovery to “freshen up” works with the biorhythms of most people, jobs and families.  Freshening up does not mean kicking back for the week and putting your feet up!  You will still nail your key sessions, but drop or reduce supplementary sessions and have an extra day off/ lie-in.

I have put the programs together with sound progression and overload principal behind them. You could say a little too sound, as I have calculated, on the most part, a 10% increment to each week or training session. It’s of fundamental importance that if you wish to take up this ‘virtual’ coaching, you understand yourself and are willing to go through profiling. The profiling will ensure you are tuned into the daily sessions/ training at the right intensity, this will allow the overload principals to be effective and not destructive.


Training Zones

The first thing to remember with training zones is that they are not an exact line to cross – they have an upper and a lower limit and merge into each other. Some coaches will work in lots of different zones with a, b and c+1 etc and it can become very complex. I like to keep training zones simple.



Swimming:  I have used the 400m swim test and get sound results, having taken swimmers struggling to hit 8mins on arrival to sub 4.30 for the 400m. The really exciting thing in swimming, I have noticed a similar occurrence as we see in the run with the 6 second pacing zones.

Training state: Depending on your level of training/ fitness, I have been able to work very accurately within 4 – 6 seconds with most athletes’ zones on the swim and the run. Furthermore, I have found that you get better swim values over 400m, especially with newbie swimmers, whose stroke mechanics may start to deteriorate over the longer distances.

Psychology: Keeping to shorter testing, but enough to elicit the desired vVO2max result, is about making the test psychologically more attainable/ sustainable for the athletes, especially with low endurance base at the start of the year, post break.

Measuring Your Current Ability

Below is an example of a 'middle to front-of-pack' age group athlete who has come to me, we have gone through their personal profiling and now have their "numbers".

To your left, you will see that I have defined a detailed description of the training zones and their correlating paces.

Example athlete results from testing are:
• 400m Swim test – 6mins (90 sec 100’s)
• 6 minute Run test – 1600m (90 sec 400’s)
• Bike power – FTP – 300w

Below you will see how their numbers start to come to life and this athlete can now own their training.

Level 1 (L1): Easy
• RPE (rate of perceived exertion): this fees EASY, on a scale of 1 – 10 it’s maybe a 1 to 3. Great for warming up and extended endurance work. It’s a pace/ speed where one has to concentrate on not lifting the pace and also on holding good form.
• Heart rate: 60 – 75% of max
• VO2max: 59 – 74%
• Run = 1.50 – 1.56 per 400m
• Swim = 1.50 – 1.56 per 100m
• Bike = 150 – 200w

Level 2 (L2): Tempo
• RPE: 3 to 5 – Feels moderately easy, a little more rhythmical than L1 and you can get into a nice “tempo” and can be maintained for long periods. For most this is around your ironman run/ bike pace.
• HR users will be hovering around 76 – 84% of max
• Run: 1.43 – 1.49 per 400m
• Swim: 1.43 – 1.49 per 100m
• Bike 200 – 250w for 5+hrs

Level 3 (L3): Threshold
• RPE: 5 to 7 – Feels like race pace over Olympic and sprint distance (possible 70.3 for well trained, stronger athletes), it can be maintained for moderate duration of 5 to 10k or 750/ 1500m swimming. This is the grey zone, it’s neither easy nor hard, but a great pace for learning the rhythm of racing.
• Run 1.36 – 1.42 per 400m
• Swim 1.36 – 1.42 per 100m
• Bike 250 – 300w for 1hr

Level 4 (L4): = vVO2max
• RPE: 7 to 9 Remember this is the pace you did your testing at, so can be maintained for 6 – 12mins. Should feel ok for the first couple of minutes or so, but as lactate starts to accumulate so does the pain. Key workout for increasing your aerobic capacity. In swimming terms this is your First Buoy Pace (FBP).
• 100% max heart rate
• 100% VO2max
• Run 1.29 – 1.23 per 400m
• Swim 1.29 – 1.23 per 100m swim
• Bike 300 – 350w for 6 – 12mins

Level 5 (L5): Max
• RPE: 9 to 10
• This is not max as in your best 100m sprint or flat our 15 sec burst on the bike, you should be able to do this for over 400m on the track or over 100m in the pool, especially as your speed/ endurance increases. Fantastic pace for building power, strength and speed. Elite athlete may need to work above L5 to increase power on the bike to match that seen in racing to either get back on the back of a pack or negotiate tight corners/ turns
• Run: 1.22 – 1.16 for just over 400m+
• Swim: 1.22 – 1.16 for just over 100m+
• Bike: Sustained wattage of around 350 – 450w 90secs to 2mins

The Future

There are lots of training stimuli that we can incorporate into your training, and once you have laid down a period of consistent training and you know your body and how you react to different training, you can start to experiment. I will look to go through some of these methods in future newsletters and or feedback sessions… stay tuned.

I sincerely hope this website helps unlock your potential in triathlon.
— James Beckinsale